Recently in Recordings
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
04 Jan 2006
CATALANI: La Falce
Although nothing is mentioned on the cover of the CD, I think this is the first official recording of the opera even if there are some pirates doing the rounds of the collectors (my copy is a Buenos Aires pirate). So this is not an unimportant issue of Catalani’s first opera.
It has been Giancarlo Bongiovanni’s custom for several recordings to employ cheap orchestras (following the Naxos trend) for whom this is a kind of calling card and to give the title roles to experienced singers who never made headlines but carve out existences in small provincial theatres in Europe. There is nothing wrong with that method, as otherwise it would be financially impossible to bring to the market the many rarities Bongiovanni issues.
The orchestra is certainly not substandard and plays well under maestro Frontalini. Dnjepropetrovsk may be a hideous place to live; but the city has one million inhabitants and a good opera house. The quality of the orchestra is important in this opera as it starts out with a prologo longer than 12 minutes in an opera that only has thirty minutes more to go. The piece is exactly what the name says: a prologue that is a symphonic poem that tells us all what has happened beforehand : an attack on a caravan led by Muhammed ibn Abdullah (yes, the founder himself) that fails because of a sandstorm and the intervention of angels. The battle leaves the heroine all alone in the world as her family is wiped out. The tenor appears wearing a scythe (i.e., la Falce) but he is not a messenger of death but of life. The girl and the boy fall in love and they follow the victorious caravan starting their new life together.
At the time, the 21-year old Catalani knew the earlier operas of Wagner and, during a stay in Paris, he had heard some of the effects the older Massenet used (though that composer’s first oriental opera – Le Roi de Lahore – premièred two years after La Falce). Catalani’s use of the orchestra is refined and far from the big guitar of some of his contemporaries. He never was a great tune-smith though his best known opera, La Wally, has one big hit. Nonetheless he employs mostly melodic recitatives changing into arioso without formal beginnings or endings in the traditional aria-style. Though the tenor has more declamatory lines than the more lyrical ones of the soprano, their voices nicely join together from time to time in the honoured Italian way. It may be a youthful piece; but it is one that grows on you with repeated hearings.
After a career of twenty years with many performances of Abigaile and Turandot, soprano Paola Romano has a serviceable but somewhat shrill voice without a distinct timbre. Tenor Carlo Torriani is a throwback to the fifties when these kind of big booming voices with a heavy vibrato were still in abundant supply in Italy: not too refined, reminding one of Giuseppe Giacomini, but still exciting for those like myself who like ringing tenor singing.
In short, an interesting CD and a must for all collectors of operas by Verdi’s successors.